Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is already the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and this means that we are approaching the end of the joyous season of Easter soon, and it is a good time for us to take stock on what we have gone through so far in the season of Easter. This season of Easter is a time for us to focus our attention on the Risen Lord and the hope that He has brought upon us all Christians, the hope of everlasting life and true happiness with God. It is a time for us to rediscover our faith in Him and for us to return to our roots in the teachings of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, as we listened to the words of the Acts of the Apostles, we are presented with the controversy and divisions that existed within the Church in its early days when there were disagreements between those who sought to impose the very strict and harsh version of the Jewish laws and customs, as proposed by those converts to the Christian faith from among the Pharisees, and those who wanted to make it easier for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord, by not requiring any Christian faithful from obeying the full laws and customs of the Jewish people. Both of them represented the different opinions and factions then present within the early Church, showing some of the challenges faced by the Church and its leaders in its earliest days.

It would be difficult for the non-Jewish people like the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Arameans and many others who were touched and called by the truth of God to follow the Lord should they be required to obey the fullness of the Jewish laws and customs. That is because some of the Jewish traditions and requirements such as circumcision and the dietary prohibitions would have caused great difficulties for them to live their lives as Christians as those were seen as strange or even barbaric practices by those Gentiles. It would have made living as Christians doubly difficult for the converts from among the Gentiles.

As such, the Apostles and the whole Church discussed and prayed over the matter, and they considered how they could make it better especially for the Gentiles to follow the Lord. They decided that it was unnecessary for the faithful, be it Jews or Gentiles to follow the fullness of the very restrictive and strict Jewish laws and customs. Those laws had dated from the time of Moses, when the Lord Himself gave those commandments, laws and precepts to His people through Moses. However, many of those were meant to help the people to redirect their attention and way of life to focus on the Lord instead of their many worldly preoccupations and distractions.

Instead, as time went by, there were more and more laws and ordinances, harsher and stricter interpretations due to the desire of the people to purify their way of life after enduring the difficulties and the humiliations caused by the years of the destruction of the old kingdom of Israel, the destruction of their homeland and exile in Babylon, Assyria and elsewhere. Then, later on, much more recent by the time of Jesus, the actions of the Greeks in trying to destroy the Jewish culture and customs, as highlighted in the Book of the Maccabees in the Old Testament, would lead to a bitter war of independence led by the Maccabees which eventually led to the freedom for the Jewish people. This happened just about over a hundred and fifty years before the time of Jesus’ ministry.

However, that noble intention was overshadowed by the overzealous attempts of those who sought to keep the laws pure and sacred, by increasingly emphasising on the intricate details of the rituals and practices of the laws, adding more detailed explanations and parts that ended up overriding the original intention of the Law, and making it difficult and cumbersome for the people to follow it faithfully and wholeheartedly. In fact, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who enforced those laws themselves did not truly and could not fulfil the entire commandments and parts of the Law that they themselves enforced.

Hence, what we have heard in our first reading is a reminder for all of us that, just as the Apostles had done in pointing out to the Church and the faithful that what is important in being Christians is not about the Law itself or how one is to follow the Law in a particular way, for ultimately, the Law is a means through which the faithful could be better able to follow the Lord, and it is meant to bring the people closer to God, to discover His truth and love, and to know how they can live their lives so that they may be better attuned to Him, and eventually be able to find their way to Him through His saving grace.

That was why, the Apostles and the elders of the Church decided that it did not make any sense for the faithful to be subjected to the whole breadth and depth of the Jewish laws and practices as enforced and kept by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, when the Lord Himself frequently, as highlighted throughout the Gospels, criticised the way that those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had carried out and followed the Law. When the Law became the focus of the attention and when everyone ended up becoming self-centred and self-righteous, comparing oneself and thinking of oneself as being better and superior than others just because they obeyed the Law better, that is when the Church as a community of the faithful break down and fail to work.

Instead, the Church of God must remain open and welcoming, filled with the genuine love of God and His truth. The Church of God has to be the beacon of light showing the light of God, His love and truth to all the nations. The message that we heard in our second reading today from the Book of Revelations of St. John showed us the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Heaven and the new Earth that will come in the end, and into which all the people are called to come, regardless of their race and background, and regardless of their affiliations and status. What matters is their faith and genuine love for God.

The Lord welcomes us all, every single sons and daughters of man to follow Him, to be His disciples and followers. He calls us all to walk in His path, and He has taught us how to do so, through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today. In His own words, He said that we ought to keep His words and teachings, and accept His truth wholeheartedly. That is what He expected us to do with our lives, as Christians, as His disciples and followers, and as His beloved people. All of us have to remain firm in following His path and not be easily distracted by the many temptations and pressures of the world, and keep our focus on Him and not on other things.

As what we have heard and discussed regarding the attitudes of those who followed the strict version of the Jewish customs and laws, and attempted to impose them on the whole Church. The Lord wants us, His faithful ones to live according to the Law and not for the Law. The Law of God is the law of love, what God has revealed to us more completely through His Son and the Holy Spirit, a call for us to love God with all of our hearts and might, and to show that same love to all of our fellow brethren, our fellow mankind. That is what Christian love is and all of us are challenged and called to fulfil that, as the cornerstone of our lives and as our focus and attention.

Each and every one of us have to remind ourselves that we are all called to share the love of God with one another, and to inspire others to love Him more and more. And the best way for us to do that is by showing that love in our own way of life. Instead of loving ourselves and acting with pride and arrogance as what many among the Pharisees had done, who looked down on those whom they condemned as sinners and unworthy, we ought to remind ourselves that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, sinners who are in need of God’s love and mercy. We are all equal before God and we should not think that we are better than others, or wanting to impose our way of thinking on others, as highlighted, when those are not in accordance with God’s truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all as we continue with our journey of faith in life, commit ourselves to follow the Lord and to do the best with our lives, with whatever gifts and talents that God has given us. Let us all be exemplary in our lives and actions so that by our lives we may inspire many others to follow our examples, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to us. Let us not worry about how much we do and whether what we had done is enough. Instead, let us encourage ourselves by realising that whatever we have done, even in the smallest things, can impact others in ways beyond what we ever imagined.

Let us do our best to inspire others to follow the Lord and to believe in Him, instead of pushing them away from Him by our arrogance, pride or self-righteousness. Instead, let us show the path to the Lord by sharing His love and compassion, His mercy and grace by our actions, at all times. May God bless us all and our every actions, for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 14 : 23-29

At that time, Jesus answered Judas, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and make a room in his home.”

“But if anyone does not love Me, he will not keep My words; and these words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. I told you all this while I was still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”

“Peace be with you! I give you My peace; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

“I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe.”

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 21 : 10-14, 22-23

One of the seven Angels took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

I saw no Temple in the city, for the Lord God, Master of the Universe, and the Lamb, are themselves its Temple. The city has no need of the light of the sun or the moon, since God’s glory is its light and the Lamb is its lamp.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us, may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the people praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 1-2, 22-29

Some persons, who had come from Judea to Antioch, were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the Law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Because of this, there was trouble; and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were, when they became believers. Finally, those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem, to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Sunday, 15 May 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the Fifth Sunday of Easter, which means that we have passed the mid-point of this blessed and joyful season of Easter, and we continue to progress through this time and season of Easter, we are constantly again being reminded of our calling as Christians, as those who have placed our faith and trust in Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Whom we believe to have risen from the dead and had been triumphant in the struggle and battle against evil, sin and death. All of us as Christians are called to be sharers in the Church’s mission to evangelise and to spread the Good News to more and more people.

In our first reading today, we heard of the ministry and works of St. Paul and St. Barnabas as they were sent to evangelise to the people in many places, travelling throughout the breadth and length of Asia Minor, visiting the population centres and other areas, proclaiming the truth of God and the message of His Good News and salvation to more and more people. They also encouraged the faithful there to keep their faith despite the trials and challenges that they had to endure in being the followers of Christ. The Christian faithful were then persecuted by the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and their supporters.

Yet, all these did not dampen the spirit of the Apostles and the other missionaries who continued to labour hard for the sake of the Lord and His faithful people, as they continued to speak up for the Lord’s truth amidst all the opposition and challenges that they encountered. They faithfully committed themselves to spread the words of God’s salvation to more people throughout the world, and while they suffered, their faith and love for God in fact inspired many more people to believe in God as well. The faith and the love that each of those Christians showed to one another, and their hope in God encouraged many to remain firmly faithful in God.

In our second reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the words of St. John the Apostle speaking at the end of his account of the revelations he had received from God. St. John received the visions from God of what would happen in the end of time, and he saw in the end, a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem descending from God in Heaven, in which all the faithful people of God will dwell in, free from sorrow and suffering, free from tyranny and oppression. All the faithful will live and reign forever with God, Who will be with them and dwell among them, and everyone will enjoy an everlasting peace and happiness with Him.

It is this firm assurance of the world that is to come, the love of God and all that the faithful ones of God will have in the end, which encouraged the faithful further. St. John wrote of his experiences and his visions as such, to reveal to the people of God, that while indeed there will be sufferings to come, the persecutions and oppressions against the faithful as detailed in that same Book of Revelations, but those who keep their faith in God and do not give up their obedience to Him, will enjoy the fullness of happiness and grace, the ultimate triumph that they will enjoy together as God conquers evil, sin and death for all eternity.

That was the same encouragement that St. Paul, St. Barnabas, the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had proclaimed to the people, and the assurances that they had given to their fellow brothers and sisters in faith. God will not abandon His beloved people, and while they may have to suffer just as He has suffered, rejected and humiliated just as He has been rejected and humiliated, and even having to die a most painful death just as the Lord Himself had died a terrible death on the Cross, but they will be triumphant with God in the end, and what matters is that, God knows everything that His faithful ones had done for His sake, and they shall be rewarded for that faith.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord gave His commandment to His disciples at the moment of the Last Supper, after Judas Iscariot the betrayer had left. The Lord told all of the disciples assembled to do as He had told them to do, to love one another just as He had loved them, and to continue doing what He had taught them to do, in obeying God’s will and commandments. And He also said that it is by their obedience and adherence to this way of life that everyone would come to know that they were the followers of God, and therefore, some among them, if not many, may be persuaded and convinced to follow the Lord as well.

It is there that we are once again reminded of our calling as Christians. Each one of us are called to practice our faith actively in our daily lives, to be exemplary in how we live our lives, in carrying out the Lord’s commandment of love faithfully in each and every moments we have. We do this by showing care and concern, love and compassion for one another, caring for our fellow brothers and sisters just as much as we care for ourselves. This is actually easier said than done, because we mankind are selfish by nature, and we tend to think of ourselves first, and the common ways of this world and the actions of many out there showed us how men were often willing even to sacrifice others for their own benefits and satisfaction.

But that is not what our Christian faith and way of life is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, we are called and challenged to live a way of life that is often fundamentally different from what we are often familiar with in our world. Instead of being selfish and self-serving, we are all called to think of others first, and to show love to others, much as how the Lord has shown His care for us, not minding Himself and what He had to endure, so that by loving us, and caring for us, He might open for us all the path to eternal life. That He had done so through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross.

The Apostles were clearly inspired by the Lord, His examples and unconditional love for all of us sinners. They gave themselves to their ministry and calling, enduring bitter rejection and persecution, all because they loved the Lord very much, and they also loved their fellow brothers and sisters, even those who had persecuted them, much as the Lord Himself had done the same thing earlier on. They followed the Lord’s own examples, and from there, they gave us even more concrete examples of true and genuine faith, faith that is not selfish or inward looking, but rather is life-giving and nurturing, as they ventured forth in proclaiming the Word of God to more and more people, for the salvation of all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words from the Scriptures and reflect on their meaning, significance and importance to us once again, we all ought to discern how we can be better and more worthy Christians in our daily living. Are we living our lives as how faithful and selfless Christians should live? And are we doing what the Lord had told us to do, to love our fellow brethren just as much as we have loved ourselves? The Lord had called us to action, and to embrace faithfully and wholeheartedly the mission of evangelisation that He has entrusted to each one of us.

The responsibility and calling to evangelise is not just the responsibility carried by some in the Church. It is not just the clergy, priests and missionaries who need to labour for the sake of the Lord and His Church, and for the people who had not yet known God. On the other hand, it is the responsibility shared by all the faithful, and which is why our roles as various parts and members of the Church are even more important, and each one of us, be it clergy or laity, whether married or single, or in whichever stage of life we are in, all of us have this calling and obligation to glorify God by our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Sunday’s readings, and through them, all of us as Christians are reminded as we have been many times throughout this season of Easter, that our rejoicing and celebration cannot just be inward looking and focused. On the contrary, we have to be an evangelising, missionary and active Church, full of vibrancy and faith, with dedication and commitment to live our lives daily with faith, fulfilling what the Lord had commanded us to do, to love one another just as He has loved us, and to love others just as much as we love ourselves.

Are we all willing and able to commit ourselves to this calling, brothers and sisters? The choice is in our hands whether we want to follow Christ our Lord wholeheartedly or not. The temptation indeed will be great for us to succumb to the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, but we must not let those things distract us from our path towards the Lord. Let us all help one another in our journey of faith and be sources of inspiration for each other in how we live our lives with faith. Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote more of our time, effort and attention to be the faithful disciples and witnesses of Our Lord in our world today, that more and more people may be saved through us. May God bless us and our every endeavours, our every good works. Amen.

Sunday, 15 May 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 31-33a, 34-35

At that time, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while.”

“I give you a new commandment : Love one another! Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunday, 15 May 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 21 : 1-5a

Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

A loud voice came from the throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals : He will pitch His tent among them, and they will be His people; He will be God-with-them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was, has passed away.”

The One seated on the throne said, “See, I make all things new.”

Sunday, 15 May 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13ab

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Sunday, 15 May 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 14 : 21b-27

Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra and Iconium, and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples, and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith; for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the kingdom of God.” In each church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in Whom they had placed their faith.

Then they travelled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there, they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace, for the task they had now completed. On their arrival, they gathered the Church together, and told them all that God had done through them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews.